Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Manual Recount in Baghdad: What Maliki Wants

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 April 2010 14:55

The announcement today that the some 2,4 million votes cast in Baghdad will be subjected to a manual recount means two things for Iraqi politics: A certain delay in the process of certification, which will now likely be pushed towards early May and possibly later (the recount probably opens the door for fresh appeals), as well as a possible delay in the process of unifying the State of Law alliance (SLA) and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) to a single Shiite bloc.

Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his SLA have been the driving force in demanding the recount. To better understand their aims it may be useful to revert to what a Maliki adviser, Ali al-Musawi, told media about their coalition visions back on 16 March, at a time when Maliki and Allawi were still neck and neck. He then said that SLA was looking to form a “political majority” with the “Kurds, parts of the Iraqi National Alliance, parts of Iraqiyya, Tawafuq and other small parties”. This would in many ways mean a return to the situation in 2007, after the defection of the Sadrists (November 2006, after the Maliki-Bush meeting) but before that of Tawafuq and Iraqiyya in the summer), though with Maliki in a relatively stronger position vis-à-vis the decentralisers among the Kurds and ISCI. It has also been suggested that the United States and Saudi Arabia would be happy with this kind of outcome, even though the ideological contradictions would still be much bigger than in a smaller, centralist Iraqiyya/SLA government, and to call it a “political majority” would be something of a euphemism.

It is of course somewhat ironic that the ruling by the election court comes just days after Maliki seemed to acknowledge defeat precisely for the vision of a “political majority” and instead for the first time began talking about the dreaded, oversized “national unity” government. As for the mathematics of all of this, the numerical margins, based on the final IHEC figures, suggest that the seventeenth INA seat in Baghdad might perhaps be the one that is most vulnerable to small changes in the figures (or, more correctly, it is the fifteenth seat of the initial allocation that is at risk, with a surplus of just about 1,000 votes). But that is probably not what Maliki is looking for: His aim is likely to win a SLA seat at the expense of an Iraqiyya seat so that he can avoid creating a bigger bloc in order to fight for the premiership. Iraqiyya, for their part, have warned about SLA putting pressure on the courts throughout and are likely to view the recount with suspicion. They still seem to be holding on to the dialogue with INA, but have been more upbeat about relations with the Sadrists than with ISCI lately (Ammar al-Hakim today for the first time seemed to rule out both Maliki and Allawi as suitable premier candidates).

33 Responses to “The Manual Recount in Baghdad: What Maliki Wants”

  1. Raad said

    Hi Reidar, why does it matter if the supreme court held that it’s the largest coalition after the elections that could form the government?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Raad, my take on this is that Maliki would like to avoid a formal merger with INA as far as possible in order to not get marginalised in the process. I don’t think the Kurds are going to formally merge with any of the non-Kurdish parties, which leaves INA and Iraqiyya. Of course, that could happen, but the distance appears to be greater than in the case of SLA/INA. The exception would be Iraqiyya and the Sadrists, which appear to have moved somewhat closer over the last weeks.

  3. Raad said

    Thanks for the reply…but let’s assume that the best Maliki would get is an extra 3 seats the expense of Iraqiyah – how would that change things for him? I dont understand why a few or for the sake of argument 5 seats could change things.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    His thinking would probably be that that kind of scenario gave him an advantage as the focus for prime ministerial negotiations. He would quit talks of a merger with INA, assume that INA/Iraqiyya are unable to merge and instead move to build alliances with smaller blocs & breakway elements.

  5. Jason said

    This system is maddening. If I’m beginning to have doubts about whether it is going to work, I can only imagine how Iraqis feel.

  6. Raad said

    Which body specifically made the recount ruling, the supreme court of IHEC? If the former then wouldnt Allawi dispute this in the same way he disputed its earlier ruling that the largest post election bloc can form the government?

  7. Reidar Visser said

    No I am pretty certain this was done by the special elections court mandated by the electoral legislation. I have already seen several misleading references in Western and Arabic sources where it is confused with other appeal courts.

  8. Thaqalain said

    Husseini of the independent electoral commission(IEC) said it was only votes in Baghdad that were going to be retallied.

    “Most of the appeals were about the results in Baghdad and for this reason they only decided to order a recount in Baghdad,” she told Reuters.

    Tariq Harb, a lawyer for the State of Law, said it presented 24 boxes of files containing proof of voting irregularities to the review panel hearing complaints about the election.

    The panel has to finish reviewing more than 300 complaints filed by various parties before the election results can be certified. That could take several more weeks, officials said.

  9. Ali W said

    I really cant see any difference in the situation if Maliki gains another few seats and comes out on top, but i can name a few problems that could arise, such as the withdrawl of INM from the scene which could be disasterious.

    Reidar, could you see the KA and INA would dropping their demands for a national unity government? They both really want it, would there be a difference if Maliki comes out on top?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, Maliki would doubtless have more leverage because in theory he could then start with the Kurds to get up to 150 deputies on his side and then continue adding step by step until he reaches comfortably above the 163 mark without giving too much away.

    Today he does not have that opportunity because he first needs to have the biggest bloc which adds 70 INA deputies that Maliki really doesn’t want to have aboard. But I suspect he will encounter problems in negotiations with the Kurds and it really would have been a lot easier for him to go straight to Iraqiyya…

  11. Salah said


    If the recount went as Maliki love what the next step will be?

    Ist the outcome of voting be objected and redo again? or what?

  12. Ali said

    how credible do you think maliki’s accusations of vote-rigging in allawi’s favour are

  13. Reidar Visser said

    Ali: Ali W asked about that before and I still have the same view which is that it seems rather unlikely that Iraqiyya should have been able to do systematic fraud inside IHEC which is dominated by the Shiite Islamist parties, the Kurds and Tawafuq.

    Salah, I think there is an appeals process similar to the one we just had if anyone is unhappy with the recount and can come up with some good arguments.

  14. Wayne White said

    To what extent do we need to worry that the recount poses an opportunity for State of Law fraud? I felt it was rather ironic for Maliki to cry foul about election irregularities since he & his supporters were perhaps in the best position to do so, and we received scattered reports of voter intimidation on the part of his people and pro-Maliki army elements (beyond, of course, the also highly questionable Shi’a-inspired anti-Ba’ath campaign that Maliki joined before the election).

  15. Hasan said

    Its Maliki’s Days, “these days” He got Abo Omar Albagdadi And Ayad Allawi In the same moment… Well It is quite a triumph… I think He is heading toward the prime ministry for the next 4 years, there is no excuse (good or bad) now with the sadrists to refuse him.

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Wayne, that is certainly a concern in some circles, including Iraqiyya. The problem for Maliki is that the numbers in Baghdad need to change *a lot* for him to get the result he wants, i.e. INM losing at least one and he gaining one. With the high number of polling stations, systematic fraud is supposed to be quite difficult, so there would be a lot of explaining to do for IHEC in case there is any dramatic changes (perhaps apart from the INA seat referred to above which only has a buffer of some 1,000 votes).

    Also, as with so much else related to the elections, the legal framework is often weak or non-existent. The regulation for the 3-man legal electoral commission says its decisions cannot be appealed in any shape or form, but when the “decision” is in fact a recount, some are already contending that a second possibility of appeal automatically follows.

  17. Reidar Visser said

    Well, Hasan, I need to remind you that the anticipated discovery of 200,000 lost State of Law votes in Baghdad has not been made public just yet.

  18. Jason said

    I guess if there is a silver lining to this screwed up parliamentary system, it is that the army and police seem to be holding the country together despite the stalemate at the top. Of course, if you’re a small-government conservative like me (that believes that the role of govt is to maintain security and otherwise stay the hell out of the way of the private sector), then govt grid-lock can be a good thing.

  19. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, only problem with your “neutral” security services is that some think they are showing an unusual interest in locking up various Iraqiyya supporters these days.

  20. Danone said

    Not to mention the thousands of sadrists supporters who are locked up right now.

  21. Ali W said

    Reidar, it seems the Sadrists are trying to apply pressure on SLA

    Yesterday I saw an interview in Sharqyia with Al-Araji who stated very confidently that the Sadrists are now the leaders of INA, putting Hakeem in his place.

    I see this as a way to pressure SLA into joining the coalition under their terms before the recount is finished which could result in a Maliki victory.

  22. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, I think Maliki will try to avoid any alliance with INA before the results are known. Yesterday he described the negotiations with INA as ‘aqima, which is not a word that I’m terribly familiar with but I think it means literallly “sterile” and, more figuratively, “useless”. INA politicians from both Fadila and ISCI have criticised the whole re-count decision. Nujayfi of Iraqiyya reportedly met with Maliki though; let’s hope we get more of that!

  23. Kermanshahi said

    Who sais Maliki can’t actually loose votes from this re-count? Is it really sure that his list didn’t ceat but was cheated? But why would Maliki make a gamble here if he didn’t know he’d get more seats out of it?

  24. Reidar,
    I wonder how the expats’ votes will be recounted. Baghdad has a large expat community which voted mainly against Maliki. If the recount results in a muddy picture and re-vote is called for only Baghdad then the expats impact will be removed.

  25. Salah said


    Looks Maliki will fight all a along and he is determined to stay PM whatever expenses.

    But there is one question here if Maliki was win the 2 seats does he allow other losers to do same what he trying to prevent the wining Kutla to form government?

    Iraqis as a nation should now take Kazakhstan example and launch anti-government riots انتفــاضـــة to sweep these thugs and criminal who have done nothing for the last seven years for Iraq and Iraqi were in fact more Iraqis killed or made refuges and more orphans and social problems created by their greed and carelessness putting all their claims on Qaida or Ba’athest and outsider.

    They fail miserably to lead and show any skill to lead and build a nation that had three wars and dragged to a level that need very skilled leads and committed people to pick this nation from the hole that theses gangs put the nation in

  26. Salah said

    as ‘aqima, which is not a word that I’m terribly familiar with but which I think it means, literally, “sterile”, and more figuratively “useless”

    وكان رئيس الوزراء رئيس ائتلاف دولة القانون نوري المالكي قد وصف المفاوضات الجارية مع الائتلاف الوطني العراقي بالعقيمة، مشيرا إلى أنها لم تصل إلى نتيجة، على حد قوله.


    This word means will never give results or out comes, this word from Arabic word used as for woman that she can not be pregnant because of permanent cause and no way can she get give birth to baby.

    So it’s like he closed all the doors here.

  27. Hasan said

    Thanx for your response Reidar, I think that since the IHEC has not changed from 2004 till now, it reflects the balance of power in Allawy’s government (or in the governing council), and that only Hamdiyyah Alhousayni and Amal Alberaqdar represent the shiit islamists. (both protested and never appeared in the results press conference and then Hamdiyyah Alhousayni held the conference of the recounting).
    In my point of view reider, its very very much easier to the sadrists to join the SLA (at list its possible) than the Iraqiyya.
    Just two years ago in the conflict in basra -Sawlet Alforsan- it was hard to believe that sadrists could join the ISCI again, now their alliance is more than real.
    I think that what would really happen is the disunion of the Iraqiyya.. and some of its parties would join the new government letting allawi go back to his small corner until the next election.

  28. Reidar Visser said

    Hasan, I have to disagree with you on the composition of IHEC. New commissioners were elected by the Iraqi parliament around early 2007 I think, selected by a committee that was chaired by Khalid al-Atiyya. I think the nominees were roughly 4 UIA, 2 KA, 2 Tawafuq, 1 Iraqiyya. To the best om my knowledge, Qasim al-Abbudi, Karim al-Tamimi and Ayyad al-Kinani are all considered to be leaning towards INA. Husayni, as you say, is closer to Daawa, but Mrs. Biraqdar is I think the only one who is seen as being on terms with Iraqiyya.

    So far Iraqiyya has responded with relative unity to the various attempts by others to fragment them.

  29. Salah said

    (both protested and never appeared in the results press conference and then Hamdiyyah Alhousayni held the conference of the recounting).

    The news inside Iraq was different from what stated above.

    The reason for them not appeared in the conference not because both protested, it was the opposite, both banded to be in the conference

  30. Salah said

    This what happened in North Iraq with Kurds which relatively more respecting to human than what may be happen south of Kurdistan:

    وأشار رئيسحركة التغيير إلى «أنه منذ انتهاء الانتخابات البرلمانية في 25 من يوليو (تموز) من العام الماضي، تعرضت حركة التغيير إلى عقوبات سياسية قاسية، فعلى الصعيد الإعلامي شنت السلطات حربا نفسية مكثفة ضدنا، ونعتقد أنهم استخدموا خبراء أجانب لتجنيدهم في هذه الحرب النفسية، وعلى أرض الواقع مارست تلك السلطات ما يسمى بـ«إرهاب الدولة» ضد أنصارنا ومؤيدينا، فهناك إجراءات طرد تعسفية من الوظائف، ونقل الموظفين من مكان إلى آخر بهدف دفعهم إلى ترك وظائفهم، وكذلك تهديد عائلاتهم، وممارسة سياسة الترغيب والترهيب في حق أكثرية أنصارنا ونشطائنا في الحركة.

    وتأتي هذه التصريحات في الوقت الذي أعلن فيه رئيس الإقليم مسعود بارزاني أنه يتحمل مسؤولية إعادة المطرودين من حركة التغيير إلى وظائفهم السابقة، وإعادة صرف رواتبهم المتوقفة كجزء من التزامات الرئاسة تجاه الحركة التي دخلت مؤخرا في إطار ائتلاف كردستاني يمثل القوى السياسية الكردستانية في بغداد.

    So what we expecting happening to Iraqi voters before, during and after the voting and all drama we witnessing today? Not to mentioned Iraq in top of the list were journalist is targeted and killed were many recently killed after the election.

  31. Jason said

    A simple solution to the stalemate would be to dissolve the position of PM into the Presidency. Let the new parliament hold a vote. The top two go to a second round, and the winner is the new President. Let the President nominate his own cabinet picks requiring majority approval of parliament for each nominee to be seated.

    Of course, this is easier said then done.

  32. Rachel said

    On aqima, I think the word you are looking for is “fruitless.” This word carries the meaning that the talks between SoL and INA could go on and on without leading to any acceptable result. SoL would probably be fine with any of INA’s demands to form a coalition except giving up the PM slot claimed by Maliki (which he will be able to do with more moral authority if a recount shows SoL above INM). Whereas INA would also probably agree to any power-sharing deal between SoL and INA as long as Maliki would not remain PM. Another word would be “impasse.”

  33. Thaqalain said

    According to Reuters “An Iraqi review panel on Monday invalidated the votes of 52 candidates of the March election, possibly wiping out the slim lead of a Sunni-backed alliance.”

    We need to know the impact of invalidation on the winning alliances.
    It seems that lava has not yet exploded and Iraq might never be able to compete with Saudi Arabia in equaling its oil production capacity to 12 million barrels Per Day.

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